US Geological Survey


Document Type


Date of this Version



Science of the Total Environment 810 (2022) 151291.


Used by permission.


Wild raptors are widely used to assess exposure to different environmental contaminants, including anticoagulant rodenticides (ARs). ARs are used on a global scale for rodent control, and act by disruption of the vitamin K cycle that results in haemorrhage usually accompanied by death within days. Some ARs are highly persistent and bioaccumulative, which can cause significant exposure of non-target species.We characterized AR exposure in a heterogeneous sample of dead raptors collected over 12 years (2008–2019) in south-eastern France. Residue analysis of 156 liver samples through LC-MS/MS revealed that 50% (78/156) were positive for ARs, with 13.5% (21/156) having summed second-generation AR (SGAR) concentrations>100 ng/gww.While SGARs were commonly detected (97.4% of positive samples), first-generation ARs were rarely found (7.7% of positive samples). ARs were more frequently detected and at greater concentration in predators (prevalence: 82.5%) than in scavengers (38.8%). Exposure to multiple ARs was common (64.1% of positive samples).While chlorophacinone exposure decreased over time, an increasing exposure trend was observed for the SGAR brodifacoum, suggesting that public policies may not be efficient at mitigating risk of exposure for non-target species. Haemorrhage was observed in 88 birds, but AR toxicosis was suspected in only 2 of these individuals, and no difference in frequency of haemorrhage was apparent in birds displaying summed SGAR levels above or below 100 ng/g ww. As for other contaminants, 17.2% of liver samples (11/64) exhibited Pb levels compatible with sub-clinical poisoning (>6 μg/g dw), with 6.3% (4/64) above the threshold for severe/lethal poisoning (>30 μg/g dw). Nine individuals with Pb levels >6 μg/g dw also had AR residues, demonstrating exposure to multiple contaminants. Broad toxicological screening for other contaminants was positive for 18 of 126 individuals, with carbofuran and mevinphos exposure being the suspected cause of death of 17 birds. Our findings demonstrate lower but still substantial AR exposure of scavenging birds compared to predatory birds, and also illustrate the complexity of diagnosing AR toxicosis through forensic investigations.